Winning the IOV’s Video of the Month – again!

VOTM Nipper Clipper
Guess who has won Video of the Month again?

This is the first time I’ve had a chance to share the news about winning the IOV’s ‘Video of the Month’ competition for December 2013.  This competition is run every month by the Institute of Videography and is open to its members who can submit any film, on any subject, from which the IOV’s Executive Committee select one as the winner.

Our winning entry for Video of the Month in December was a video diary produced for Stylfile on their amazing Nipper Clipper product which was having its first ever public exhibition at the Baby Show 2013 – Olympia.  See previous blog here. The video diary is presented by 2011 BBC Apprentice winner, Tom Pellereau – inventor of the Nipper Clipper (and other amazing nail care products) and business partner of Lord Sugar.

I’m especially pleased to win Video of the Month with a film created for Stylfile as they are firm believers in the value of commissioning a video and fully understand the important role it plays in search engine optimisation.  This video diary is featured on Stylfile’s YouTube channel (alongside other video films created for them by Video Artisan) which is central to their video marketing efforts.

Video of the Month x 3

This is the third time that Video Artisan has won VOTM since it was launched in 2013.  The two other winning entries are ‘Eiger Safety – Musical Short‘ and ‘Same-Sex Dance Festival‘.

This reminded me that I needed to produce a new credit sequence for Video Artisan – which proved to be a really good test for Vistitle which I’m in the middle of reviewing (to be published here soon!).  Nothing too overstated – but nice to be able to shout about winning an award or two (or five if you include 2nd place in the 2012 Best Doc category of the IOV Awards!)


A day filming in the studio

Cash from your Camcorder
A day with Peter Walters filming in the studio

It’s been a busy start to the year – kicking off with a day filming in the studio with Peter Walters of Power Visual on his ‘Cash from your Camcorder’ DVD.

I’ve known Peter for more years than I care to remember (oh OK – for over 25-years) and have worked with him on various projects but mainly as a freelance cameraman on cart racing. Peter’s main area of specialisation though is everything equestrian and he is well known for his series of SIVs (Special Interest Videos) on dressage and dog training which have sold in their tens of thousands!

Having achieved so much success with his own SIVs, in 2006 Peter went on to produce a set of DVDs with resources disk entitled, ‘Cash from your Camcorder – How to make and market your own Special Interest and How-to DVDs’. Once again Peter had lots of success with this DVD set which was reviewed in the IOV’s Focus magazine in December of that year.

But, like everything else in life, things have changed a fair bit in the SIV market since then. Whilst some of the information in the original series is still relevant there are many, many more opportunities and tools available for SIV producers to market their DVDs these days – especially online. Peter therefore felt compelled to re-shoot the DVD and, at the same time, has been developing a new website ( to provide SIV producers with a whole range of support information and advice. The new DVD and website are being launched in March – but we shot a short 1-minute teaser to whet your appetite in the meantime.

Planning the day filming in the studio

Peter approached me just after Christmas about filming in the studio here and within a couple of days we had the shoot scheduled in. Whilst it looked like a challenge to re-shoot the all the talking head content in 1-day (more than an hour’s worth of footage) the benefit of working with Peter is that he’s a natural in front of camera and knows his subject really well. He knows all the tricks of the trade when it comes to making and marketing an SIV so nearly every section was filmed in a single take.

Though we’d allowed a full-day to shoot this, with Peter’s expertise and a little bit of forethought by me, we had all the material in the can by mid afternoon. Peter was extremely pleased with the end result and commented, “I was impressed by the fact that you’d bothered to produce an image for the backdrop from separate images I’d provided; that you helped with the scripting when I was unclear on precisely what I needed to say and that you re-framed and re-focused quickly during shooting so that there was little by way of wasted time.”

Cash Cam Peter Walters CU
Filming in the studio with proper talent

With the filming in the studio in the can Peter is now in the process of creating screen-grab material for sections where he talks the viewer through things like Google Ads and the other online resources which are covered in the DVD. These will all be voiced separately using Peter’s own Editors Keys Vocal Booth Pro (reviewed here).

Kit used whilst filming in the studio

Those who have seen my Kev’s Shed reviews will recognise the set but I personalised it to Peter with a graphic on the edit suite monitor which also doubled up as a backlight for his talking head piece. All other lighting was provided by my two Lishuai LED panels – with audio being captured using my Sony radio tie clip mic.

This job also gave me a great opportunity to put the JVC GY-HM650 through its paces. As Peter was going to do the main post production himself on his laptop using Serif software, and also because the video will be launched on DVD, I set the camera to record in MPEG4 format at 1440×1080 50i. We shot a couple of test clips and downloaded them to Peter’s laptop just to make sure the workflow was going to go as planned.


I wish Peter every success with his new DVD and website.  From the parts I’ve seen whilst filming in the studio it’s going to be extremely useful to anyone looking to tap into the profitable world of SIVs.

To anyone else who fancies some time filming in the studio please drop me a line.  I’m sure we can tweak things around to make it look even more different and relevant to your subject.


The making of an event documentary

25-years of Supadance National League
The story behind this event documentary

The making of the event documentary

It’s been a great year for Video Artisan and it couldn’t have ended better than by releasing the event documentary celebrating 25-years of the Supadance National League.

The brief for this Video Artisan film was straightforward… ish! “Produce a short event documentary to celebrate its 25th anniversary, convey the spirit of the event and the positive aspects of competitive ballroom dance, show the benefits of participation for competitors and dance schools and, ultimately, promote wider participation in Supadance National League.” Oh, and of course, I had to make sure that Supadance Shoes got a really good plug too!

Obtaining a clear brief is quite easy really and starts with a simple two-part question to the client, “Who is the audience – and what do you want them to believe after watching the film?” You’ll probably know the answers before they reply but you need to draw this out from them and then come up with a plan or treatment on how you are going to achieve it within a given budget.

dancing at the Supadance League
It’s all about dance

I’m not going to share the actual amount Supadance International invested in this event documentary but I will break it down into man-hours and kit for the way I produced this film. It consisted of a two-man crew for 2-days filming mainly on DSLR cameras followed by 3-days in post production – plus a day in pre-production. I say “mainly on DSLR cameras” because I was also testing out the JVC GY-HM650 camera which I was delivering a workshop on the following week and there are a couple of shots from that which are included in the final edit.

Pre-production and Archive Research

As the film was to celebrate the history of the event my first thoughts were in locating video or stills of previous years that would help tell the story. Thankfully, one of the league’s directors had a video of the very first event – albeit that it was 3rd generation VHS. A shout out through the Supadance National League Facebook page also brought in a handful of photos – so I had as much archive as I needed for this brief part of the documentary.

The history was interesting but lingering on it wouldn’t help me fulfil the remainder of the brief. Addressing these really had to come from capturing the thoughts, hopes and dreams of three groups of people involved at the event – namely the event’s board of directors, the principals of participating dance schools and the dancers themselves. The messages you should get from these interviews should complete the brief – plus of course the all-important plug for the sponsor which I hope doesn’t drift too far off the storyline.

Shooting the event documentary

Prior to the event the directors helped us spread the word about what we were trying to capture by way of interviews. They also hand-picked some key personal from dance schools and other officials who could offer a valuable contribution. They also helped us on the day by encouraging contestants to take part in the interviews.

Recording the interviews therefore became our focus over the 2-day shoot. It was virtually impossible to set a proper schedule for these as the organisers were busy organising and the dancers were busy dancing – so we had to take our chances where we could.

We managed to capture a handful of interviews on the first day plus the grand opening ceremony that evening. We spent the morning of the second day capturing b-roll footage of the dance action and general atmosphere shots. In the afternoon we had a separate interview area set up and grabbed people when we could. This went on all afternoon and finished around 9:30pm. When there was no one to interview we carried on gathering b-roll – even though we probably had enough by then!

Interview set on Supadance League
Ready to start recording interviews

It’s the second time Supadance International has sponsored me to make a film about this particular event. Last year’s film was a little less complicated in its brief, being a general introduction to Supadance National League – so I had plenty of general dance shots to fall back on if needed. But fashions change, people get older, become better dancers… so we knew we would need additional b-roll footage of the current event too.

Shooting Kit

It was pretty much a standard shoot stock for Video Artisan. A Canon 5DMkII and 550D – both running Magic Lantern. Lenses varied between the 24-105mm Canon, a vintage 55mm f1.8 Fujinon and an 11-16mm Tokina f2.8 cropped sensor lens (which I also used at 16mm here and there on the full-frame 5DMkII). There are a couple of slider shots where I used the Varavon slider (see review here) and though I did take a mini crane there simply wasn’t a safe opportunity to use it.

The interview audio was recorded using the Tascam DR-60D mixer/recorder (see review here). I wouldn’t go anywhere without this fantastic bit of kit.

Lighting was provided by my Ianiro 3-head kit with a 2-foot softbox. This worked well except for a couple of interviews where 3 or 4 people wanted to be filmed together rather than separately or in pairs. Despite my attempts to keep them within the lighted area they tended to drift apart as a group the moment they started to talk. I should have anticipated this really and created a bigger set – or simply took the time to re-light. But at that point we had a line of people waiting to be interviewed so were pressed for time.

In post

I spent the first couple of days in post picking the story out of the hour and forty minutes of interviews (Edius 6.5). The aim was to get it down to around 10-minutes – or less if I could. The first rough hack ended up about 12-minutes after taking out repetitions of the same point, getting one interviewee to finish off the point being started by another interviewee – plus a couple more brutal hacks. Final tweaking, giving it musical breathing space here and there (AKM Music again) and topped and tailed with graphics brought it down to its current running length of just under 9-minutes 30-seconds.

Opening ceremony
Opening Ceremony filmed on JVC GY-HM650

Launching the event documentary

A timecoded first-draft was supplied to the customer, signed-off a couple of days later and released on YouTube and Vimeo on 17th December – 10-days after filming was completed. By the following afternoon the film had been viewed over 500 times – plus additional views on a version which Supadance International released via their own Facebook page (which I don’t know the viewing figures on). Most of the views followed an announcement on the league’s Facebook page – which has been a massive bonus for reaching out to the audience. It will also be shared permanently by Supadance on their website and used by them at other dance events as part of the exhibition marketing efforts.

The real value of this event documentary will probably not be realised for some time. In the short term it should attract more schools to take part and, of course, ultimately make dancers think ‘Supadance’ when it comes to buying their next pair of dance shoes. But I also hope that in the longer term it will stand as a valuable historic document about a significant period in the league’s history.

Bring it on – I love event documentary commissions!


VOTM Award winning film for @supadanceshoes

Winner of VOTM for November 2013
Video Artisan’s VOTM award winning film for November

Another award winning film for Supadance

I had some great news last week. The documentary I produced for Supadance on the Same-Sex Dance Festival in Blackpool was voted as the winner of the IOV’s Video of the Month (VOTM) competition for November. Yay!

Like all competitions, sometimes you win but more often you lose! To me that just makes winning things that much nicer. However, winning the VOTM with this entry was especially pleasing for a number of other reasons. Firstly, it’s probably my favourite film to date. I’m the first to say that there’s always room for improvement on every film I produce (including my other award winning film for Supadance) but this was the closest I’ve come to date to having something I’m totally happy with as far as meeting the brief is concerned. It was also a double-bonus to find that the first draft was pretty much exactly what ended up being released as a final edit.

People to please

Supadance are great clients but there’s normally always more than one person to satisfy on their commissions. In this instance I also had to win approval for the film from the organisers of the Same-Sex Dance Festival, namely Bradley and Soren from the Sugar Dandies. Whilst Supadance wanted a film that would promote their shoes in a new and developing avenue of ballroom and Latin dance, Bradley and Soren were keen to have something that would explain and promote Same-Sex dance in general and promote participation in the event itself. This was especially important to them this year as in June 2014 they will be hosting the European Same-Sex Dance Festival alongside Gay Pride in Blackpool. This should result in a much wider attendance and participation in the event so there was a lot riding on me producing something that helped them achieve this.

Group at SSDF
Recognising the talent in Same-Sex dancing

I’m also really pleased about winning VOTM with this film as it was a challenge for me to make on a personal level. Working with Supadance for the past couple of years has really got me into ballroom dance. I’ve become an avid Strictly Come Dancing fan and, in recent weeks, have broken down under mounting pressure from my wife to take up ballroom dancing lessons. Having produced five films for Supadance now I thought I knew how challenging ballroom dancing was – but now I really know! I justify this to my macho mates by saying that it helps me interpret dance when I’m filming it but, the truth is, I really enjoy it (don’t tell the Mrs. that though).

Anyway, before making this film I was unsure of the value and need for same-sex dancing. The process of making the film, meeting the people involved and listening to the reasons why same-sex dance should have its own platform (or indeed incorporated into mainstream dance) has completely changed my point of view. I hope that watching the film does that for you too.

It is a shame that you never know what other entries your film was up against in the IOV’s VOTM competition but it is especially pleasing to have an award winning film that’s judged by your piers. I was a little bit sceptical about entering this film into the competition as the subject matter is not everyone’s cup of tea, which made it even more satisfying as the content and production values must have overcome any potential biases within the judging panel (if indeed there was any!).

My next award winning film – maybe?

Right now I’m about to complete the finishing touches on yet another film for Supadance. That will have to wait until next year to be entered into anything but once again I’m pretty chuffed with the way it’s turning out. Keep an eye on my blog as I hope to have this one launched before Christmas! I have entered something into the December VOTM competition though and my fingers are crossed. If you aren’t in it you can’t win it!

PS. A big thanks to Martin Baker for his help in making this film. As a relative newbie-shooter he spends most of the time at these events running the audio for me during interviews. But at other times I set him loose with the Canon 550D and a vintage f1.8, 50mm lens to get b-roll footage.

Martin shooting at the SSDF
Thanks to Martin for his part in this award winning film

As anyone who shoots with a DSLR with a wide aperture and shallow depth of field will know, it’s a real challenge getting usable footage – especially when the subject is moving rapidly towards or away from you. Each time Martin shoots footage for me I manage to use more and more of it in the final edit so this baptism of fire is certainly making a videographer of him. Thanks Martin – I reckon you own some of the ‘award winning film’ bragging rights.

PPS. There’s a little more info on the making of this film on a previous blog here.


Report on the JVC GY-HM600 Camera Workshop

JVC GY-HM600 Camera Workshop
Camera Workshop at JVC’s London HQ

The first Camera Workshop

I must admit to being more than a little chuffed to get asked to be part of a camera workshop on JVC’s wonderful GY-HM600 and GY-HM650 camcorders. Alongside Mike Turner, our aim for the workshop was to give existing users a better understanding of the many and unique features and controls of this series of cameras.

The first of these took place on a foggy day on 11th December at JVC’s HQ in North London and was attended by ten owners of the camera who were hoping to discover their camera’s full potential. The delegates included a complete mix of experience and familiarity so it was difficult to pitch the presentation so that everyone walked away better informed.

Having had this camera for the past month or so it was great to be able to share some of the things that I had learnt about the deployment of this camera in the field. It was also really useful to have feedback from more experienced delegates that have been using the camera for much longer. With such a feature-rich piece of technology it’s unlikely that anyone could know everything there is to know about it, but between us we covered all the main functions and controls in an information sharing and friendly environment.

Updating Cameras

One of the most revealing sessions of the day for me was the software update session. These days, like any other technology, cameras are software driven and updates to performance and additional features are introduced long after the camera is released for sale. The GY-HM600 series is no different in this respect and since launch there have been a number of software versions which have improved the camera and added useful features for the user. These improvements really only come to light once the camera has been used in the field and JVC have been quick to develop these and release them to existing users via their website.

Delegates were asked to bring their cameras with them to the workshop so that they could follow sessions with their own camera to help retention. When we came to the software update session the most surprising thing for me was that none of the people on the workshop had the latest software version installed – and at least one had the original version when the camera was first launched. Not only did these guys walk away better informed but they also had better cameras from when they arrived. JVC also learned that their system of informing users on software updates had room for improvement, so everyone was a winner.

Another one of the revealing sessions was on the use of the camera in low-light situations and between us we established the best working practices that enable users to attain the best possible pictures in difficult situations. We also covered the camera’s strengths and weaknesses in full-auto mode and established the best practices in attaining and maintaining correct focus using features such as Focus Assist, Expanded Focus and the Face Detection mode.

Advanced Camera Workshop Session

The day was split between my session on general camera use and after lunch a more advanced section by Mike Turner for GY-HM650 owners covering its streaming, remote monitoring and networking functions. This was great for me as I’d not really tested these capabilities; features which are unique on this model of the camera.

Mike Turner
Me and my co-presenter, Mike Turner

Post-workshop feedback was still coming in whilst I wrote this blog but the comments from delegates on the day were all very positive. As this was our first attempt there were some things that we’ll do differently on future workshops, but overall a good first attempt. We hope to announce the next workshop date very soon, but it’s looking like being the end of January at JVC’s London HQ again.